Deal welcome, but a sign of Russian might

Ukraine, Russia, and the EU have signed a deal that will see Moscow resume vital supplies of gas to Ukraine over the winter. That means good news, too, for the rest of Europe, Ireland included. Pipelines across Ukraine have been shut down since June, threatening winter supplies to EU states.

Outgoing European Commission president José Manuel Barroso hailed the deal as he and his team make way for a new EU executive. “There is now no reason for people in Europe to stay cold this winter,” he told a news conference after witnessing the signing of documents by the Russian and Ukrainian energy ministers and EU energy commissioner.

What he failed to mention is that, far from being a sign of détente between Russia and the Ukraine, this agreement shows how powerful the former Soviets have become. Earlier this year, Russia used military might to annexe Crimea, with hardly a whimper from the EU.

Now their economic might has won the day. Russia agreed to resume supplies in return for payments funded in part by Ukraine’s Western creditors, mostly Germany.

It would be dangerously naïve to characterise this as anything than another sign of Moscow’s might. Conflict in eastern Ukraine continues and could easily spill over towards the west.

In the meantime, the Russians can toast their latest triumph in this deal with the Ukranians. After all, like all good capitalists, they insisted on cash up front.


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